Update on the latest business


Stocks skid worldwide as coronavirus infections keep soaring

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks have joined a worldwide downdraft as more signs piled up of the economic and physical pain being caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The S&P 500 was down more than 3.5% in early afternoon trading after President Donald Trump warned Americans to brace for “one of the roughest two or three weeks we’ve ever had in our country.” The White House is projecting that 100,000 to 240,000 people in the U.S. could die from COVID-19.

The S&P 500 was down 3.7% just after noon, Eastern time. All 11 sectors that make up the index lower. Among the few gainers were Kroger, Dollar General and other companies selling day-to-day essentials that households are stocking up on to ride through stay-at-home orders.


Japanese stocks took some of the world’s heaviest losses, down 4.5%, after a survey of business sentiment there fell to its worst result in seven years. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 3.8% after big banks there scrapped dividend payments, part of a worldwide effort by companies and households alike to conserve cash.


Macy’s to be removed from S&P 500; credit rating downgraded

UNDATED (AP) — Macy’s is being removed from the S&P 500 index.

S&P Dow Jones Global Indices said that Macy’s will be removed from the benchmark S&P 500 and shifted to the S&P SmallCap 600 as of Monday. The retailer is being replaced on the larger index by Carrier Global, which makes refrigeration and fire and security products

The department store chain has been struggling amid competition from discounters and online retailers like Amazon. Its market value just a fraction of what it was five years ago. At the start of 2015, Macy’s had a stock market value of around $23 billion. Its current market value is about $1.45 billion.

Separately, Fitch ratings downgraded Macy’s credit rating to so-called junk status, meaning the company is at an elevated risk of defaulting on its debts. Fitch said the downgrade reflects the negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak on discretionary spending, which Fitch says could continue into 2021. Fitch does say it believe Macy’s has enough cash on hand and available credit to weather the downturn.


Sprint and T-Mobile merge, creating new wireless giant

NEW YORK (AP) — Mobile carrier T-Mobile has completed the takeover of smaller rival Sprint, creating a new wireless giant that rivals AT&T and Verizon in size.

As of Wednesday, Sprint shares are no longer trading. T-Mobile shares added 2.8% to $86.23 in midday trading.

The companies announced the deal, valued at $31.6 billion based on T-Mobile’s closing stock price Tuesday, two years ago. It has taken a long time to close because of pushback from state and federal regulators.

T-Mobile says that adding Sprint’s spectrum, the airwaves that carry phone calls and data signals, will boost its network and make its service available to consumers at lower prices. It had promised regulators not to raise prices for three years.

T-Mobile also said Wednesday that its CEO, John Legere, is stepping down a month earlier than expected, handing the job off to COO Mike Sievert. He will remain a board member.


US construction spending down 1.3% in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spending on U.S. construction projects fell 1.3% in February with housing and nonresidential construction both showing weakness even before the coronavirus struck with force in the United States.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the February decline followed a 2.8% rise in construction in January. Economists are forecasting more declines to come, especially in housing activity as the stay-at-home orders in much of the country crimp home sales.

Home construction fell 0.6% in February with the weakness coming in home remodeling projects. Construction of single-family homes and apartments both showed gains.

Spending on nonresidential projects was down 2% with declines for office buildings, hotels and the category that covers shopping centers.

Government spending, which covers state and local building projects and the federal government, dropped 1.5%.


Surveys: Manufacturing contracts last month in US, world

WASHINGTON (AP) — Manufacturing contracted in the United States and around the world last month, dragged down by economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. The Institute for Supply Management, an association of purchasing managers, reported Wednesday that its U.S. manufacturing index fell to 49.1 in March after registering 50.1 in February. Any reading below 50 signals a contraction. Also Wednesday J.P. Morgan reported that global manufacturing shrank in March. The COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantines, travel restrictions and business closings imposed to combat it have hammered global manufacturers, disrupting their access to supplies and crushing demand for their products.


U.S. businesses cut 27,000 jobs in March, before virus hit

WASHINGTON (AP) — A private survey finds that U.S. companies shed 27,000 jobs in March. Payroll processor ADP says small businesses took the biggest hit, losing 90,000 jobs, while medium-sized and large companies still added workers.

The figures are the first monthly job loss reported by ADP since Hurricanes Harvey and Irma slammed Texas and much of the southeast in September 2017. Just one month ago, ADP said that businesses gained a solid 179,000 jobs in February. Economists forecast that much larger job losses, probably in the millions, will be reported in the coming months.

The government issues its monthly jobs report on Friday.


Reporting for duty: Airline crew sign up to help hospitals

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Airlines are looking to retrain laid-off cabin crew staff as medical workers to help in hospitals currently overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic. A first group of 30 former employees of Scandinavian Airlines have started training this week to learn basic skills to assist in nursing homes and hospitals. Airline cabin crew are considered goods candidates to work in hospitals because they are required to complete medical training to serve onboard flights. And many have lost jobs as the pandemic has grounded most flights around the world as governments try to contain the spread of the virus.


Coast Guard: Cruise ships must stay at sea with sick onboard

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard has directed all cruise ships to prepare to treat any sick passengers and crew on board while being sequestered “indefinitely” offshore during the coronavirus pandemic. The new rules require daily updates on each ship’s caseload. They also come with a stiff warning: Any foreign-flagged vessels “that loiter beyond U.S. territorial seas” should try first to medically evacuate the very sick to the countries where they are registered. Many of South Florida’s cruise ships are registered in the Bahamas. The Coast Guard says shore-side facilities are stressed and patients may be more comfortable being treated onboard.


Rural areas fear spread of virus as more hospitals close

CARROLLTON, Ala. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic couldn’t come at a worse time for rural communities across the U.S. that have lost their hospitals. Nearly 200 small-town hospitals have closed nationwide since 2005, often forcing residents to drive much farther for health care. Last year was the worst yet for shutdowns, and officials say hundreds more rural hospitals are endangered by the pandemic. That’s because moneymaking procedures like elective surgeries are being delayed and resources diverted because of the viral outbreak. More than 46 million people live in rural areas, and the government says they are generally in poorer health than city dwellers.


April 1, rent’s due: Many struggle to pay in virus outbreak

UNDATED (AP) — It’s the first of the month, and rent is due for millions of Americans for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak turned the economy upside down. Most states and local governments have stopped evictions to give time for unemployment benefits and federal stimulus checks to arrive. But there is still plenty of worry that even if April’s payment is delayed, the rent will still come due before many industries are up and running again. Nearly 3.3. million people in the U.S. filed unemployment claims for the week of March 16, as the shutdown from the virus started.


Finances hurting? Watch ‘Let’s Make a Deal’

NEW YORK (AP) — Instead of watching their own finances crumble, shut-in television viewers tuned in to the game show “Let’s Make a Deal” in record numbers last week. The Nielsen company said the show recorded its best week in the 11 years since it was revived by CBS with Wayne Brady as host. “The Price is Right” had its biggest audience in four years. With millions of viewers told to stay home because of the coronavirus, television networks across the dial recorded superlatives. The Nielsen company said it was a particularly big week for producer Dick Wolf. Streaming programs has doubled since last year.

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